ame Zandra Rhodes brightened up a stormy day in Scotland’s north east during a trip to an exhibition celebrating her five decades in fashion.
Defying the perils of Storm Eunice with heavy snow showers sweeping across the country, the British fashion designer made it north of the border to visit her 50 Years of Fabulous exhibition at Aberdeen Art Gallery.
The display, which first opened in November last year, celebrates the founding of Dame Zandra’s fashion house.
It showcases outfits from 1968, such as her lipstick-print trousers from her Fulham Road Clothes Shop, to her new garments, which she dubs “butterflies”, including her latest 2021 kaftan in recycled polyester which is part of the designer’s collaboration with Ikea.
The 25-plus eye-catching outfits on display include a replica of the tunic she made for Queen frontman Freddie Mercury in 1974.
It is the first time the exhibition, which was delayed due to the pandemic, has been on show outside of London, where it first launched in the city’s Fashion and Textile Museum in 2019.
“It’s wonderful to see my whole career displayed in front of me,” Dame Zandra said after visiting the collection on Friday.
“So many wonderful memories have resurfaced just looking at it all from start to finish.”
The 81-year-old was dressed in bright-red pleated Kitty Joseph trousers, her own multi-coloured West Yorkshire Spinners wool jumper, a glitzy collection of Andrew Logan accessories, including a giant face brooch on her chest, and pink-sequined Adidas trainers.
When I had it green, it just looked like old grass
“The only other time I was in Aberdeen, in 1984 I think it was, we were caught in a snowstorm,” she laughed.
“I was here for Frasers back then, with a range of sheets.”
Her hair, of course, was also pink, a signature look for the designer who has regularly been dubbed Princess of Punk.
“Pink is so much easier.
“When I had it green, it just looked like old grass,” she winked.
Dame Zandra, who was made a dame in 2015 and who created timeless pieces for Diana, Princess of Wales, paid a visit to independent wool shop Wool For Ewe in Rosemount Place during her trip.
The multi award-winning store stocks a colourful collection of yarns made in partnership with Dame Zandra and British spinning company West Yorkshire Spinners.
She sat down with fans to talk about her creative work and recounting stories from her celebrity-studded career.
When asked about what it was like to meet Mercury for the first time, Dame Zandra said: “He was very shy.
“I said to him: ‘Pick something off the rail and see how you feel moving around in it.’
“So he picked this wedding top which was all pleated and he moved his arms around. It was wonderful watching him doing it.”
With her flight back to London on Friday afternoon cancelled due to Storm Eunice, Dame Zandra was able to spend more time in the shop with owner Kathy Morrison, who welcomed her with macarons and pink bubbly.
“It’s just absolutely fantastic to have her here,” Ms Morrison said.
“We knew she was coming up to visit her exhibition in Aberdeen and we thought how wonderful it would be to have her here in the shop, and here she is, among garments of hers that we have on display in the windows.”
Ms Morrison’s daughter Faye Howard, who helps run the shop, said: “It’s absolutely ace having her here.
“Knitting really kicked off during the pandemic, there was a lot of interest in it with everyone being in lockdown.
“It’s been great having Zandra visit us, and we have a Facebook Live organised with our followers so they can ask her questions.”
She’s such a warm, friendly and welcoming person
Lifelong fan and fellow artist Ros Studd, who lives in Aberdeen, said she “couldn’t believe her luck” in meeting Dame Zandra.
“She’s such a warm, friendly and welcoming person,” said Ms Studd, who founded Repair What You Wear, a free-to-access website that teaches and inspires anyone to easily mend their own clothes.
“I studied at art school in Winchester when I was younger and Zandra has always been such an inspiration to me.”
Zandra Rhodes: 50 Years of Fabulous will be at Aberdeen Art Gallery until March 20.